FOCUS/midwest

Founded in 1962 by Charles L. Klotzer

Archive for May 2009

Crime, punishment, and responsibility

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“The only real alternative to crime and prison may be drastic structural changes in our environment. Unemployment might represent the single most powerful cause of crime. It brings a host of problems, particularly for disadvantaged youths who try to reconcile their marginal role in a society that values material acquisition and status above all.

Prison Cell

“Other changes are not so obvious and frequently run counter to public myths. A recent study has shown a perceptible rise in the homicide rate after publicized official executions. Hence an end to the death penalty might prevent some murders.

“The rage and futility of many criminal acts are largely rooted in modern urban, industrial society. The breakdown of values, religious and familial, the exploitation of advertising agencies in particular and business in general, the endorsement of violence by our communications media and government itself, all share in the responsibility for inciting the criminal act. Ultimately, of course, the weak and the hopeless individual who commits the crime is held accountable. Nevertheless, and no matter how unwelcome if not trite the message, the backdrop of society is more often than not involved in the criminal act.” — Margaret Phillips

Excerpted from “Alternatives to prison” in the March-April 1981 edition of FOCUS/Midwest. Today, Phillips serves on the board of Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty.

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May 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm

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An industrial policy for America’s new Appalachia

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Brain drain.closed factory

Low income.

Vanishing factory jobs.

Welcome to the Rust Belt.

Hard to believe this was the Greatest Generation’s arsenal of democracy.

Today, the industrial Midwest looks more like the arsenal of despair.
We’re the New Appalachia.

Just run that idea around the brain.

Almost half the states of the old Confederacy report higher income-per-job than a place like Indiana.

Nothing can alter that fact soon.

It could get worse. Read the rest of this entry »

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May 26, 2009 at 11:41 am

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God bless Wallace Berry, and other soldiers’ stories

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I was born on July 29, 1941 in Amboy, Ill., a small Midwestern town of 2,000 mostly straightforward and happy souls comfortably isolated in the center of the country, oblivious to the rest of the world. War would soon change all that, but I was too young then to realize how.

In fact, my first memory of World War II came near its end. People were gathering in the streets and intersections of Amboy because they’d heard of Japan’s offer to surrender, and my mother took me outside to see. It was the night of Aug. 10, 1945. I vaguely recall that people seemed subdued — adults talked through smiles, children were half asleep. Read the rest of this entry »

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May 18, 2009 at 8:02 pm

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Power grab: Utility chiefs say, “Give us the money”

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In remarks delivered Tuesday, May 12, at the 11th annual Electric Power Conference & Exhibition in Rosemont, Ill., power industry executives staked their claim to federal revenues from emission allowances.transmission tower

The Obama administration had proposed to auction off licenses to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere –licenses to pollute — and use some of the proceeds to fund health care reform. Michael Morris, chairman, president, and CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power, was sharply critical of that proposal.

Morris, as well as representatives of Houston-based Dynergy, Chicago-based Exelon Corp., and San Diego-based Sempra Energy, united in demanding that all funds raised in any auction of emission licenses go into the electric power infrastructure, including construction of new transmission lines and the development of technologies to capture carbon dioxide emissions and contain them underground.

Morris said that American Electric Power has retained Susan Eisenhower, daughter of former President Dwight Eisenhower, and George Pataki, former governor of New York, for lobbying and public relations to inject “more realism and integrity into the Obama administration’s energy and environmental plans.” — Peter Downs (pdowns@speakeasy.net)

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May 14, 2009 at 10:41 am

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Radioactive fallout: A world turned upside down

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Larry Burgan's handsCo-workers once called Larry Burgan “Lucky Larry,” but that was before anybody knew about the radioactive dust over all their heads.

There were nights in the autumn of 2005 when Larry Burgan says he slept with a loaded AK-47 assault rifle next to his bed. He suspected his phone was tapped; he feared that someone might torch his house. The reason for his wariness: A 12-pound bundle of documents released to him by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and the explosive contents therein.

The documents, which Burgan obtained under the state’s freedom of information law, outlined the extent of radioactive contamination at Burgan’s former workplace, Spectrulite Consortium Inc., in Madison, Ill. The plant was one of hundreds of low-priority radioactive sites nationwide identified by the federal government’s Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program in the 1990s. Read the rest of this entry »

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May 12, 2009 at 11:04 am

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The changing world of communications

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In Boston today, employees of the Globe are negotiating to keep their newspaper alive. And in recent weeks, big dailies in Denver and Seattle closed. The parent companies of both Chicago’s dailies are in bankruptcy. So today’s headlines make this worried report on media consolidation, published in 1962, seem almost quaint. The author is James L.C. Ford, professor of journalism at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

news-dinosaur“Nowhere is the changing world of communications more in evidence than in major metropolitan centers. In Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City, therefore, as in other major cities, one finds the epitome of diminishing newspaper competition and the rise of electronic media. The number of one-daily cities increased from 42.2 percent in 1910 to 82 percent in 1954.

“Chicago has witnessed the greatest newspaper decline. Sixty years ago, it had five morning papers — the Times-Herald, the Record, the Tribune, the Inter-Ocean, the Examiner. Of these only the Tribune remains. In the Windy City, there were four afternoon dailies: the Post, the Journal, the American, and the Daily News. Of these, only two — the American and Daily News — are left. It is true that the Sun-Times has appeared, representing the consolidation of two papers under the Marshall Field banner. However, the News also belongs to Field and the American now is owned by the Tribune. So in Chicago, we have only two newspaper ownerships, competing along Lake Michigan and through the hinterland. Read the rest of this entry »

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May 4, 2009 at 2:23 pm

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